Mythbuster: Nostalgia for a past that never was

Les Binet and Sarah Carter

Les Binet and Sarah Carter get a little bit angry about some of the nonsense they hear around them… like nostalgia for a past that never was.

Marketing and advertising people can talk a great deal of nonsense at the best of times. But if you want to hear them at their worst, then ask them to talk about social trends. The average social trends presentation is, we've found, a heady mix of the obvious, the irrelevant and the blatantly false.

Recently we found ourselves listening to a conference speech about our 'changing lifestyles'. Life today is faster than ever, the speaker pronounced. We work longer hours. We have less and less free time. Families are fragmenting and food is eaten on the run…

We've been listening to this stuff for more than 25 years. And it's no more true now that it was then. The inconvenient, less headline-worthy truth is that people have more free time than they used to. Economic cycles wax and wane, but the long-term trend in all developed economies is toward shorter, more flexible working hours, with longer holidays. People start work later in life, and spend much longer in retirement. Work takes up a much smaller percentage of our life than it used to.